On Wednesday, the former MacEwan University student who threatened mass violence against the institution last year pleaded guilty to uttering threats.
John Quest, who was 19 at the time of the incident, appeared in front of a judge at the Provincial Law Courts of Edmonton. He was sentenced to a nine-month suspended sentence, which will result in a criminal record, though no jail time will be served.
The Crown condemned Quest for “creating fear for the fun of it” and made multiple references to the incident as a “terrorist act.”
Around 2:00 a.m. on Oct. 25, 2016, Quest posted on social media platform Chillabit, “One upvote and I’ll shoot up my school.” When the post got upvoted, Quest replied, “Say no more, fam,” and advised NAIT student Dane Naidu, who replied to Quest’s thread, “Don’t go to MacEwan tomorrow.”
Edmonton Police Services was alerted to the threat at 3:30 that morning. They advised MacEwan University Security Services to increase its presence on campus that day. At 9:13 a.m., a mass email was sent out to students warning them of the threat. The school was not put into lockdown, and classes were not cancelled. Police were on scene around City Centre Campus.
At 10:30 a.m., Quest phoned MacEwan security to explain he was not going to act on his posts. Following this, Quest took to Reddit to explain the situation, saying, “Neither the police nor the school had tracked me down by the time I woke up around (9:30 a.m.),” before asking, “… (What) should I be doing for damage control?”
The Defence used Quest’s actions following the threat to mitigate the severity of the offence, saying that while the Chillabit post was an “irresponsible act,” the Reddit thread showed Quest “did the responsible thing” afterward.
“He is a young man who did an exceptionally silly thing,” the Defence said.
While the Crown acknowledged Quest did not likely intend to carry out the threat, the Crown also noted Quest “was given a second chance” to go back on his threat in subsequent posts in the Chillabit thread but failed to do so. Quest was the third-highest ranked user for MacEwan on the site, which the Crown used to argue that Quest would benefit from the threat.
A psychological assessment determined Quest was unlikely to pose a threat to the community. The conditions of his sentence include, but are not limited to, not “telecommunicating” about MacEwan except in the presence of his lawyer, probation officer, or counselor, not using the internet except for “formal education,” banking, or work, and not reapplying to MacEwan until such time as the institution allows it (Quest will be allowed to reapply for the Fall 2017 term).
“This is not a case where jail (is necessary),” the Crown said, “but I’d say it’s (awfully) close.”